News ยท 12/28/2011

January Project: Origin Stories

While digging in my hard drive recently, I found a long-forgotten folder labeled “Junk,” in which I’d dumped all my old stories and poems. And with good reason, because they’re pretty awful. Each was a weak, transparent imitation of some other writer: Dashiell Hammett, Truman Capote, Amy Hempel, Raymond Carver… The oldest story in that folder (I remember one older, but it’s long lost to the sands of incompatible word processor formats) was an unearned attempt to be existential and worldly like Paul Bowles. Still, as bad as those stories are, I see in them the germs of what I read and write now, which got me wondering about other writers and where they began: what were their first stories like? Were the stirrings of their present style already apparent? So for the month of January, instead of our usual Writer In Residence, I invited past Necessary Fiction contributors to share their own “Origin Stories” and to write a bit about the relationship of that early writing to what they write now. And for the sake of fair play, I’ve posted that watered-down Paul Bowles imitation over at Fictionaut, so I’m not asking our contributors to do something I wouldn’t myself. Though you might be better off reading some actual Bowles.